VisionLink Blog

By Ken Gibson

April 20, 2017

Should You Hire a Compensation Consultant?


Okay, first things first.  I suppose it might seem odd and even a bit self-serving for someone who is a principal in a compensation design firm to offer advice about engaging a pay consultant. However, given the hundreds of companies that have engaged VisionLink over the past 20 years, the reality is I have much “real life” experience with those who were ready for a pay consultant when they hired us and those who were not. So, in that context, I suppose I might be considered an expert on the subject.  As a result, I've decided to offer the benefit of my experience to those who are struggling with compensation issues and therefore might be considering outside assistance.  I’ll leave it to you to decide whether these insights are helpful. 

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By Ken Gibson

April 11, 2017

Is Your Pay Strategy Conventional or Transformational?


Conventional wisdom is a dangerous thing, particularly when it is used as a substitute for strategic thinking.  In their book Freakonomics, authors  Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner make the point this way: “It was John Kenneth Galbraith, the hyper literate economic sage who coined the phrase ‘conventional wisdom.’  He did not consider it a compliment. ‘We associate truth with convenience,’ he wrote, ‘with what most closely accords with self-interest and personal well-being or promises best to avoid awkward effort or unwelcome dislocation of life.  We also find highly acceptable what contributes most to self-esteem.’ Economic and social behavior, Galbraith continued, ‘are complex and to comprehend their character is mentally tiring.  Therefore we adhere, as though to a raft, to those ideas which represent our understanding.’ ”

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By Ken Gibson

April 03, 2017

VisionLink: What We Believe, Where We’re Headed & Why it Matters


It’s not typical that I use this space to talk about The VisionLink Advisory Group directly—except in reference to learnings we’ve gained in our work with client companies.  But I thought it both relevant and important that I shed some light on our firm’s core beliefs, purpose and vision for a couple of reasons.  First, I think doing so will give you some context for what I write about each week in this space.  Second, I happen to think the work we do is significant and has a real impact on the businesses we serve as well as those affected by their success.  So here it goes. 

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By Ken Gibson

March 28, 2017

The 4 Secrets to Building a Compelling Employee Value Proposition


To build a performance culture your organization must be able to attract, develop and retain great people.  That talent effort will require you to have a superior employee value proposition—one that doesn’t just mirror what “the market” is doing but that distinguishes your business from the competition in a compelling way.  And your offering must address more than just compensation—it must define a growth partnership and market a future.  So let’s discuss what that means.

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By Ken Gibson

March 21, 2017

FREE REPORT: What is the Impact of Pay on Employee Engagement?


We have entered a new age in the evolution of the employer-employee relationship.  A Deloitte Review article and study describes the shift this way: “The employee-work contract has changed: People are operating more like free agents than in the past. In short, the balance of power has shifted from employer to employee, forcing business leaders to learn how to build an organization that engages employees as sensitive, passionate, creative contributors. We call this a shift from improving employee engagement to a focus on building an irresistible organization.”

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By Ken Gibson

March 15, 2017

5 Signs Your Pay Strategy isn't Working


If you run a business, it’s no secret to you that compensation is a huge investment.  For most organizations, it’s the biggest line item on their P&L.  So it’s no wonder your blood pressure rises every time an employee asks for a raise or expresses disappointment in the quality of your benefit package. You think you’re being generous with their pay level and they think they’re being undervalued.  Let’s face it, compensation is not a core competency for most business leaders.  As a result, you’re constantly questioning your pay strategy and whether it’s achieving what it’s supposed to.  And if it’s not, why isn’t it?

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By Ken Gibson

March 07, 2017

How Do You Make Incentive Plans "Self-Financing?"


CEOs and business owners are always concerned about costs—because costs diminish profits.  As a result, if you lead a company, one of the first questions you likely ask when an incentive plan is proposed is this: “What is it going to cost?”  The question is understandable and appropriate; however, it starts a discussion about the merits of incentive plans on a wrong premise.  In theory, an incentive plan shouldn’t “cost” the company anything.  Let me explain.

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By Ken Gibson

March 01, 2017

The Secret to Pay Strategies that Motivate Employees to Perform


What if you knew of a pay approach that would guarantee higher performance from your people?   You would start using it right away, correct?  I mean, who wouldn’t?  Well, presumably, improved performance is, in fact, the goal of your company’s compensation strategy, is it not?  You want to ensure that there is a link between how you pay your employees and how they perform—and that your compensation strategy is driving and not hindering better results, am I right?  Which begs the question,  is there such a thing as a magic potion when it comes to rewards?  Is there a secret strategy that you can just plug in and then sit back and watch performance soar?

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By Ken Gibson

February 23, 2017

What Job Have You Hired Your Pay Strategy to Do?


Clayton Christensen is widely considered one of the world’s prominent thought leaders on the subject of innovation.   His writings on creative disruption changed the way businesses evaluated competition and how to remain not only relevant but ahead of the transformation curve.  His latest writings focus on a concept called the “theory of jobs to be done” in which he posits: “When we buy a product, we essentially ‘hire’ something to get a job done. If it does the job well, when we are confronted with the same job, we hire that same product again. And if the product does a crummy job, we ‘fire’ it and look around for something else we might hire to solve the problem.”  (Clayton Christensen: The Theory of Jobs To Be Done, Harvard Business School, Working Knowledge, Dina Gerdeman, October 3, 2016)  It occurred to me that Christensen’s premise doesn’t just apply to the products we deliver to the marketplace.  It applies to all of the systems and strategies we employ in our business including those related to compensation.

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By Ken Gibson

February 16, 2017

Attracting and Retaining Top Talent: What the Best Expect


Last week I attended the SaaStr Conference in San Francisco.  If you are not familiar, this event attracts about 10,000 attendees from the technology world to hear and learn from some of the industry’s most successful SaaS company founders and leaders.  These are individuals who have had to attract and develop talent in a highly competitive environment—and have succeeded in doing so on their way to building valuable companies.  However, the principles and practices they apply in attracting and retaining top talent are not unique to their industry.  They are what every successful organization does.  So, let’s learn from them, shall we?

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By Ken Gibson

February 07, 2017

Avoid Compensation Chaos by Building an Enduring Pay Strategy


You are about to introduce a phantom stock plan to 15 of your key people.  You have read up on this concept and decided it is a perfect fit for your business.  You are a private company and don't want to give equity away, but you do want your executive team to adopt a stewardship approach to their role in building the future business; you'd like them to think more like you as the CEO or owner.  This led you to speak with your company’s accounting firm and they agreed phantom stock would be a good plan from both a tax and cash flow perspective.  So, with all of that logic and the positive momentum you've garnered, you contacted your attorney and asked him to draft a plan agreement.  He's done so and you're about to meet with your key producers and introduce the plan to them.  STOP!! Please don't go any further.

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By Ken Gibson

February 02, 2017

6 Secrets to Improved Employee Performance


When I ask CEOs and other business leader what kind of culture they will need to achieve their organization’s growth goals, I get a variety of responses that communicate one common theme.  Some chief executives talk about the need to attract better talent.  Others suggest they need the people who are already on board to step it up a notch in helping the company achieve its goals.  Most are looking for greater passion and engagement on the part of their people.  When I hear their answers, what I commonly say in response is: “It sounds to me like what you're looking for is a performance culture.”

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By Ken Gibson

January 25, 2017

3 Incentive Plans that Don’t “Cost” Anything


Most CEOs and other business leaders feel pressure to contain costs.  As a result, when it comes to compensation they are wary of “adding” plans to their pay mix because they don’t want to add expense to their cash flow or P&L statements.  It is certainly a valid concern and one we address with our clients often when they are considering various kinds of value-sharing plans.  However, when it comes to compensation, “expense” has to be carefully defined or a business may keep itself from implementing a plan that is ideal for its employees because those safeguarding profits make the wrong assumptions about “costs.”  Here’s what I mean.

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By Ken Gibson

January 18, 2017

Why Pay Matters: 7 Reasons Your People Care about their Compensation


If you read some of the literature these days about pay incentives and other rewards strategies, you could easily conclude that what and how you pay your employees doesn’t really matter.  “Experts” suggest people aren’t motivated by pay “schemes” and that performance is driven solely by intrinsic factors that have nothing to do with compensation.  However, if you lead a business, I doubt you have ever seriously considered not paying your people (“Hey, just enjoy the intrinsic rewards!”) or paying everyone the same (although one CEO did actually attempt that).  What researchers and authors that downplay the importance of your compensation approach have overlooked are the fundamental, common-sense reasons people care about both how and how much they are paid. 

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By Ken Gibson

January 11, 2017

NEW REPORT: The Reinvention of Performance Management


Free ReportPerformance appraisal methods are undergoing a revolution.  Formal systems are on the decline and more fluid approaches are on the rise.  This reinvention is widespread and growing by the day.  A 2014 Deloitte University Press article described the trend this way:

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CLIENT SUCCESS STORIES

"VisionLink has helped us successfully navigate a number of complex issues regarding our rewards programs. It has dealt with all facets of these varied issues with a high degree of competence, integrity, and straight forward advice. VisionLink's experienced team has consistently delivered first class results in a timely, professional manner and has become a valued Storm partner."

Thomas K. Grzywacz
Storm Industries, Inc.

"VisionLink has helped us successfully engineer a long-term incentive plan that has empowered our company to reward and retain key talent while increasing shareholder value. The knowledge, patience and deep experience of its team members helped us navigate a road that was unfamiliar to us. Ultimately, VisionLink designed a plan that met the high standards of both stockholders and key management employees. We have further engaged VisionLink to address our business succession and transition planning needs."

Reggie Dupre'
Dupre Logistics

"Over the past several years, National Technical Systems has engaged VisionLink to provide insight and direction on a number of executive compensation issues, as well as a performance evaluation of our 401(k) plan. Under its direction, NTS completely revamped executive level rewards to align with our business growth objectives and the strategic plan of the company. VisionLink's insight and direction have been invaluable. NTS has achieved its growth objectives and our executives feel appropriately rewarded for their performance."

Bill McGinnis
National Technical Systems

"VisionLink arrived on the scene just in time for us. We needed a new framework for our short-term and long-term incentive plans. VisionLink's modeling and forecasting process broadened our horizons and expanded our view of how to use a good incentive system to build, retain and strengthen our senior management team. We remain impressed by their expertise, professionalism and great service."

James Keng
Jimway, Inc.

"Our firm has had a long-term incentive plan for over eight years but we never quite felt like it was firing on all cylinders. We hired VisionLink to re-energize our plan, and they did it! We now have a cohesive awards strategy that's fair to shareholders and valued by our employees. VisionLink's team is technically skilled and very creative. We're happy to recommend VisionLink to firms looking to upgrade their management incentive programs."

John M
FTO Inc.

"Our company was like VisionLink's typical clients. We were great at sales and haphazard at how we compensated our people. VisionLink's process brings great clarity and confidence to our growth planning - and makes compensation a great growth capability."

Dan Sullivan
Strategic Coach ©

"The team at VisionLink helped our company structure a long-term incentive plan that parallels the company's strategy for continued growth as a global market leader within our industry. Their approach resulted in a program that our corporate team and executives embraced on both a professional and personal basis. Through VisionLink's guidance and execution, we were able to create both a motivational tool for current team members and a recruiting device to attract future executive level associates. Well done!"

Mark Rhoades
Fluidmaster, Inc.

"As a leading direct seller of scrapbook photo albums and supplies, Creative Memories has independent consultants across the country. And for over six years now, VisionLink has helped us to stay connected and administer a voluntary 409A non-qualified plan for them. VisionLink has provided support for all aspects of our plan from notification of eligibility through registration and distribution. The VisionLink support team has offered suggestions for improving processes and provided us with outstanding service year after year."

Guy Walker
Creative Memories North America